04 November 2012

Guest Blog: Blythe Gifford

Blythe Gifford introduces The Brunson Clan in RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR!

This week, we’re talking to one of our own, Blythe Gifford, who has been blogging with Unusual Historicals since 2009. Her new trilogy, The Brunson Clan, launches this month with RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR. Set on the Scottish Borders during the early Tudor era, it centers on the Brunsons, a family of Border Reivers. Blythe is here to talk about the trilogy and offer a copy of the launch title to a lucky winner. Here's the blurb:


Once part of a powerful border clan, John has not set sight on the Brunson stone tower in years. With failure never an option, he must persuade his family to honour the King’s call for peace.

To succeed, John knows winning over the daughter of an allied family, Cate Gilnock, holds the key. But this intriguing beauty is beyond the powers of flattery and seduction. Instead, the painful vulnerability hidden behind her spirited eyes calls out to John as he is inexorably drawn back into the warrior Brunson clan…

**Q & A with Blythe Gifford**

What’s so unusual about the setting of this series?
First, let me say how glad I am to be here at “home,” talking about this series. What’s unusual? Well, when it comes to historical romance, which is what I write, Scottish Highlanders get all the glory. I find the Borders much more interesting. Whether there was a formal war or an uneasy peace, the Borders were, in effect, a war zone for 300 years. They operated almost like a “third country,” with their own “Border Laws.” Wardens, think of them as sheriffs or governors, were appointed for each governmental district, or March. The wardens of the Western Scottish March and the Western English March, for example, were supposed to work together to keep the peace and punish those who broke it. Their success was marginal at best.

So do the Borders have anything in common with the more popular Highlands?
We’re familiar with the importance of family in the Scottish Highlands, but it was equally important, if not more so, on the Borders. Family was more important than king of either Scotland or England and family feuds and alliances were stronger than national loyalty. One family might be allied with another across the border, or enemies with a family on its own side. The Border laws forbade marriage across the border, in a futile attempt to keep family loyalty aligned with national interest.

So how does that family loyalty influence RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR?
Loyalty to family and the family’s loyalty to another member of the clan really drives the first book. John, the youngest son, returns home after years of serving as a “big brother” to the young Scottish king. John is a man with something to prove, both to himself and to his family. As the only blue-eyed Brunson, he’s always felt as if he didn’t belong. Now, he no longer wants to. As soon as he enforces the king’s command for peace, he plans to return to his life at court and leave the valley of his birth for the last time.

But first, he must persuade Cate Gilnock to release his family from their promise to avenge her father’s death. Such a promise is like a sacred oath. Cate is a woman fierce as a warrior, but behind her eyes, John senses vulnerability and secrets she refuses to share. Bit by bit, he falls in love with her, and with each step, he is drawn back into the life he thought he had left behind forever. Because of Cate, he discovers he is more like the rest of his family than he thought until, finally, he must decide:  Is he truly a Brunson? Or is he the King’s man after all? Which promise will he keep?

You’ve worked real history into the story as well, right?
I seem to be unable to write a story that’s not somehow tied to actual history. In this case, James V of Scotland is a character and his own ascension to power plays an important role in the story. James himself is one of the more “unusual” Scottish kings. He’s typically been overlooked while most of the attention goes to his daughter, Mary, Queen of Scots.

It’s been awhile between books for you, hasn’t it? And this represents a change in several ways.
My last release, HIS BORDER BRIDE, was out more than two years ago. It, too, was set on the Scottish side of the border, but almost two hundred years earlier. There were raids then, yes, but the heyday of the reiving era was the sixteenth century, when RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR is set.

My previous books were set in the fourteenth century and featured a main character born on the wrong side of the (usually) royal blanket. So I changed time periods, as well as emphasis. Everyone in this series knows who their parents are. Of course, that is part of the problem! I enjoyed writing about the relationships between the two Brunson brothers and their sister, too.

You’ve already given regular readers of this blog a preview of the world of the Brunsons, haven’t you?
I’ve blogged about a typical night of raiding, about one of the deadliest Border feuds, and in October, wrote about the historic incident that was the inspiration for the entire series. In addition, I told readers about King James V’s illegitimate children. So if readers want more background, they can revisit those posts.

One lucky reader who comments on today’s blog will be randomly selected to win a signed copy of RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR.

Blythe Gifford has been known for medieval romances featuring characters born on the wrong side of the royal blanket. Now, she’s launching a trilogy set on the turbulent Scottish Borders of the early Tudor era, starting with RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR, November 2012, Harlequin Historical. CAPTIVE OF THE BORDER LORD will follow in January 2013, and TAKEN BY THE BORDER REBEL in March 2013. The Chicago Tribune has called her work “the perfect balance between history and romance.”

Photo credits. Cover used with permission. Author photo by Jennifer Girard